I remember after I told people I decided to stop working, the first question was usually “Why?”. Then usually followed by “It’s nice your family has found a way to live on one income”. My response was always “We haven’t, but we’ll figure it out”. So that’s what we spent the last six months of last year doing, figuring it out.
At first, we thought we could just budget our spending and that would solve everything. So we let the cleaning lady go, and the restaurants go. I started cooking more. I started shopping at Aldi, instead of Kroger. I though we would be able to do it. But then the energy bills for August in Texas hit us. There went $600. With only one paycheck, our mortgage, home insurance, tax payments, and utility costs were around 50% of our income. And cleaning my house took me ALL week, and required me to ignore my children to get it done. It was clear we needed to make a change. So we started talking to a realtor to both sell our 2500 sqft house, and buy a smaller, less expensive house. While I realize this decision would be very difficult for some to do, it really was a matter of mathematics for us. If we stayed in this nice large house, we would be out of a house within a year (I may be exaggerating a little, but still). After talking to the realtor, we found out houses in our area had risen quite a lot since we bought the house 4 years earlier. With the increase in value of the house and the equity we had in our current house, we had enough for a 20% down payment for a new house. What we found was a new spec home that was 1400sqft, 1100sqft smaller than our house. So while the waiting game started after signing contracts, we started selling and relocating our furniture and other things like crazy! Since we were no longer going to have two living areas, we sold both our TVs, knowing we could use the money from the sale of the two TVs to buy a new one when were in the new house. We gave our dining room table to my parents’. As we packed boxes, we sold things we no longer needed or wanted on Craigslist and Facebook garage sale pages. Then we finally moved into our new house, and realized another great thing about a smaller house. Our utility bills were cut in half! So now our mortgage, taxes, insurance, and utility bills are now only 30% of our income. That’s much more manageable!
So now that our major expenses were taken care of, the next thing to do was to look at our other expenses, like food, entertainment, and other miscellaneous expenses. Like I said earlier, I started cooking more, and started shopping at Aldi. The great thing about Aldi is that it is much smaller than say Walmart or Target. This both prevents me from randomly buy something I don’t need, and lets me get in and out of the store in less than 30 minutes. Also, Aldi has generic brand items, so they are less expensive than name brand items. Now there are some items Aldi either does not carry, or I refuse to buy generic, like diapers, wipes, toilet paper, deodorant, and paper towels. I still buy these items from a large box store, but I buy them online through Ebates.com. This way I get a little cash back every time I buy something, and, if I spend over $50, shipping to my house is free, so I don’t have to go to the store at all! Yay for not having to take two preschool boys to the store!
Next was looking at the items we could do without. The first thing we looked at was cable TV. Since we are not big sports fans, we realized we watched very few things on TV that we couldn’t also get on Netflix. So we canceled our cable TV, which was about $60 a month, and got a subscription to Netflix for $8 a month. One of the items we kept, that some may be able to do without, was the lawn and bug guy. We tried for several years to maintain our lawn, but just ended up with a unkept, full of weeds mess. Also, I don’t like living with bugs, so these two are a must for us. Our yard at our new house was about the same as our old house, so the cost of the yard service stayed the same. But I discovered another hidden benefit of a smaller house when I transferred the bug service. Spraying for bugs at a smaller house is less expensive than spraying a larger house for bugs. BONUS!!
Another thing that really helped our finances was working out a monthly budget, and balancing our checkbook at least once a week. Though we stay fairly on budget each month, there are months we go a little over, and some that come in under the budget. The big help has been knowing when and where our money is coming and going. We didn’t use any fancy software to create our budget and checkbook. Just good old Excel.
When looking to decrease expenses, it is important to also allow for some fun too. If I haven’t mentioned it before, my husband is a perfect balance for me. While I was looking at budgets and end of the month totals, he reminded me we needed to budget in some money for fun items. So each month, we allow for about 10% of our income for fun, not in the budget items. After all, how fun is life if you don’t make room for fun?